With the first phase of the government’s plastic ban only one day away, businesses across New Providence are preparing for the impact.
The Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019, will ban the import of most single-use plastics after January 1, 2020. The bill allows exceptions for plastic bags used for several specific purposes, including bags for waste disposal and compostable single-use plastic bags.
For Variety Disposable Products, the adjustment has been a big one, as the company’s stock has always consisted primarily of styrofoam and single-use plastics.
Alicia Poitier, purchasing officer at Variety Disposable Products, said the company began to slow down on the import of items on the banned list earlier this year.
“What we started doing a few months ago, we have been minimizing bringing in styrofoam and bringing in more compostable products to be prepared for the ban in January,” she said.
Poitier said the company has stocked a number of alternative options for customers.
“We have cornstarch cutlery, wooden cutlery, tote bags, paper cups, compostable trays, they are all plant-based, sugar cane,” she said.
Poitier admitted that there is a price difference, but said it is not an exceptional one.
“There’s not really a huge price difference,” she said.
“There is definitely an increase, I would say. Some of the compostable plates that we sell are on par with the styrofoam. Some are a little higher. The trays are definitely a little bit more and the cornstarch cutlery. So, I would say there is an increase, but not a drastic increase.”
However, despite the difference, General Manager Anwar Knowles said Variety’s customers have been slowly transitioning.
“For the items that have been banned, persons are slowly transitioning to the new items,” he said.
“You see persons who are still hard bent and waiting for that last second before they stop buying those items. But for the most part, the banned items have slowly been going and persons are switching over to the new items.”
He said he does not expect the ban to negatively impact the business.
“The items themselves, people will still need them,” he said. “It will just be a matter of using a different material.”
The bill provides that businesses will be allowed to get rid of existing stock of banned items up to July 1, 2020, after which it will be illegal for them to have or provide them.
However, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at AML Foods Renea Bastian said the company has decided not to take advantage of that transition period.
“Solomon’s nor the Solomon’s Fresh Markets will be carrying nor distributing plastic bags,” she said.
“We’ve made a decision to just ban them as of January 1. We do have reusable bags that will be available for sale.
“[B]ut we will not as a company be distributing the plastic bags. You will have to either come in with your own bags or purchase bags at the point of sale.”
Some customers who were out running errands yesterday expressed their support of the ban.
Trace Dean said he believes The Bahamas may actually be behind on the issue.
“I feel like it’s a good move, great for the environment,” he said.
“I know places like Bermuda, they had their ban done from at least a few years ago and I think that it will help a lot. It will help with the litter, the trash. I think it’s a good move.”
Jacob Dean also agreed with the importance of the initiative, citing first-hand experience with the impact plastics have on marine life.
“I think it will be safer for the environment,” he said.
“What I saw firsthand, what it is doing with marine resources and other things, plastic ought to be banned. It is not healthy for our society. It is not healthy at all.”
Dean said his family got reusable grocery bags some time ago in preparation.
“We have been planning for this because the government spoke about it and we have been preparing ourselves,” he said.
However, others were more critical of the initiative.
A man who identified himself as McKenzie said he is keeping his plastic bags, and insisted that they are not harmful to the environment.
“I don’t know where they going, because I’m keeping mine,” he said.
“I have plenty home and what I have home I’ll use next year.”
He added, “This ain’t doing nothing to the environment. The only thing doing something to all this environment is they need to stop dredging all these harbors for the big cruise ships down on those cays.”
Doris Newton said she believes the ban is a “moneymaking scheme”.
“One time ago we had brown paper bags,” she said.
“Somebody invented plastic to make money. Now somebody wants to do away with the plastic to make more money. That’s how I see it. But if we dispose of it properly, it could be resolved. So, this is a moneymaking scheme. Now I disagree with people throwing it into the sea and what not.”
However, a woman who identified herself as Sharon said she thinks it is a necessary move.
“I feel good because it’s for the environment,” she said.
“The beaches are always dirty. We just have to prepare. I’ve been getting bags. Yesterday, I spoke to my daughter-in-law about ordering good bags. So, we will have them. But we leave these bags all over the place and it’s really not good for the environment. So, I’m happy.”
She admitted that while she sometimes does not remember to bring her reusable bags, she knows everyone will soon adjust.
“We have to get into the habit,” she said.
“Eventually when there are no bags, we will all bring our bags.”